Site icon HarborLAB


HarborLAB’s program focus is environmental stewardship, restoration, and education within our estuary and watershed. We seek, create and promote means of including under-served communities in harbor life, and of fostering a love of environmental science among urban youth and first-generation college students.

If your organization is interested in partnering, please first agree to our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement.

Below are our programs, listed in alphabetical order.

Cost: Classroom programs are FREE. Unless explicitly a fundraising event, our paddling programs are FREE. We provide the boats (to see the kinds of boats we use, please click the About tab above), paddles, life vests, insurance, and educational materials. Our trained volunteers are equipped with safety equipment and we invest in their training: many Staff Volunteers have Red Cross and American Canoe Association certification for adult and pediatric AED, CPR, First Aid, Basic Water Rescue, and Kayak Instruction.

Some tours and services with limited seating require a reservation deposit that is refunded if the registrant shows up and participates. This deposit is necessary to reduce no-shows. No-shows deny students or other members of the public the opportunity to participate. No-shows also waste the valuable time of volunteers.

We gratefully accept tax deductible donations through the Sponsor/Donate tab above.

Please click our Calendar tab above to join our fun public programs! To request an education program, please follow instructions provided below.

HarborLAB produces and co-produces events, such as the Peace Lanterns Festival, with a growing arts component — from Afrodancercise to mural painting! Please bring your painting, musical, henna tattooing and face painting, juggling and tightrope walking, dance, and other talents to our community! 🙂  Please email to participate.

Classroom, Library, and Community Center Visits
HarborLAB will come to you to deliver talks on a variety of estuary and watershed topics and lead activities like native plant seed gathering and seedball making. Please email with a subject line indicating your subject interest to arrange a visit!

Community Paddles
These are open events in sheltered inland waters to introduce people to paddling or simply give them a micro-vacation of 15 or 20 minutes afloat. Our volunteers provide paddling tips to newbies and in some cases can even share the tandem boat. We provide educational materials and activities ashore. No reservations — just show up! 🙂  We provide Community Paddles most often at Gantry Plaza State Park, but also at special events throughout the metropolitan region. Check our calendar for dates. To request a Community Paddle in your neighborhood or favorite park, please email

Eco-Education Voyages
HarborLAB offers tours of New York Harbor by kayak and the Newtown Creek by canoe. Our paddling tours rove throughout our archipelago, seeding and cleaning shorelines, planting marsh grasses and sapling trees, and documenting flora and fauna. Lecturers lead paddling tours centered on inclusive history and ecology. We will add rowboat and bicycle tours in the near future, and recommend walking tours of Newtown Creek led by Newtown Creek Alliance historian and Newtown Pentacle blogger Mitch Waxman.

Please click the Calendar tab above see coming Eco-Education Voyages.

Environmental Monitoring 
HarborLAB is an advocate for environmental data gathering and improvement.

Water Quality – We were an early advocate for water quality testing and secured the partnership of CUNY LaGuardia Community College’s environmental science laboratory. Each week from May through October we sample water at Gantry Plaza State Park as part of the NYC Water Trail Association’s “Citizen Scientist” program to promote awareness of combined sewer overflows. In partnership with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection lasting through winter seasons, HarborLAB helped discover a sewage leak that endangered the health of people paddling with another organization’s program at Hallets Cove. HarborLAB was the first organization to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency test plant tissue as part of its Newtown Creek Superfund remediation, a position that was seconded by other environmental advocates.

Oysters – We participate in the Billion Oyster Project, stewarding and measuring the growth of oysters, which continuously filter water. Our volunteers have also kayaked to Governors Island to pick up oyster cages and deliver them to schools and community groups. In 2017 we’ll build cages for BOP.

“Creek Cam” and Galleries – HarborLAB volunteers regularly report wildlife sightings, spills, sunken boats (a source of marine microplastics), dumping, algal blooms, and other important information to government agencies, conservation groups, environmental justice attorneys, and the general public. Soon we’ll have alive feed camera on the Newtown Creek to assist environmental law enforcement and raise public awareness. Under the direction of HarborLAB Chair Scott Sternbach, director of photography at LaGuardia Community College and a National Science Foundation grant recipient, we’ll build a public gallery of photographs (microscopic to landscape) that educate about the state of flora and fauna of our estuary and watershed.

GreenLaunch Gardens and Habitat Restoration
HarborLAB launches from the Queens bank of the Newtown Creek mouth, near the East River mouth and expanding Hunters Point South Park where water quality is superior to inland reaches. Nonetheless, grassroots efforts to bring life to this industrial area are vital. We are growing already important native species along the berm atop our habitat slope, in progress. In the intertidal zone we’ll plant spartina (cordgrass), and in our uplands we have orchard fruit trees in containers and raised beds. We’ll erect a new trellis for fruiting vines in 2017 for shade and beauty. Below the water we seek to experiment with “biorock” accretion of calcium and magnesium to anchor ribbed mussels. To help with gardening, tree care, aquaculture, carpentry, bricklaying, botany and naturalist education, and other aspects of this project, please email with the subject line “GreenLaunch Gardening.”

Our GreenLaunch work is supported by designated grants from the Hudson River Foundation and Citizens Committee for NYC, and by general funds from our sponsors.

Instruction for Inclusion 
HarborLAB volunteers who are certified by the American Canoe Association as kayak instructors provide free introductory paddling and water safety lessons. We believe that confidence through competence will help include participants from more diverse communities in our longer, challenging educational paddle tours. This program is oriented especially to lower-income and immigrant communities traditionally underrepresented in NYC’s maritime life and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines. We offer lessons in both pools and open water. We will soon add Red Cross Certified Basic Water Rescue instructors to our Staff Volunteer roster.

Write to us at edu@harborlab with the subject line “Instruction for Inclusion Booking” to schedule your community group or students for introductory kayak and water safety lessons. Our Instruction for Inclusion instructors and their assistants are also often at Community Paddles to offer tips and coaching. Instruction for Inclusion is made possible by TF Cornerstone.

Neversink Reservoir Paddles (ReservoirLAB)

Students and youth groups can learn about their drinking water by paddling on it! ReservoirLAB outings have three elements: 1) A classroom or community visit by HarborLAB volunteers trained by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Participants learn about how reservoirs were created and are maintained, and how water is delivered to our region’s farms and cities. 2) A short walk through the forest surrounding the reservoir to learn how plants and fungi protect soil and water and support animals from eagles to humans. 3) Paddling on the reservoir!

Location: Chandlers Cove, Neversink Reservoir, NY 12765

Available 2019 dates:
Sept: 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30
Oct:  5, 6, 7, 12, 13


Write to HarborLAB Executive Director Erik Baard and Neversink Program Manager Patricia Menje at with the subject line “Neversink ReservoirLAB” to request this program for your school or youth group and to learn about catch-and-release fishing, kayak instruction, and nearby camping options. With approval from the NYCDEP and the educators we serve, we welcome colleges and environmental organizations to paddle the reservoir by joining us as volunteers on youth paddling days. ReservoirLAB is made possible by NYCDEP training and permits, and funding from the Catskill Watershed Corporation.

Because we include forest hikes and forest education during the paddle tour, your school or organization might qualify for a grant for buses up to the reservoir. Apply to the Watershed Agricultural Council.

As with all programs, all participants must provide a waiver. Minors must have their waivers signed by a parent or guardian. Our waivers are here:

Access to the reservoir also requires a free permit. More information about that here:

Partner Paddles and Private Paddles
HarborLAB can work with your school, community group, or environmental organization to specially schedule estuary programs. We can also host private paddles as fundraisers for our services. Please email us at to make arrangements.

Support Paddles 
HarborLAB provides kayaking programs in the metropolitan region to community events. We also participate in, and occasionally organize, fundraising paddles for social and environmental good in NYC and adjacent counties. Our volunteers serve as safety escorts for swim events and other causes. Please email us at to make arrangements.

Writing and Media
HarborLAB posts weekly “Water Wonk Wednesdays” and “Flora and Fauna Fridays” columns about the science, policy, and beauty of water and the life it supports in our estuary and watershed. We’ll soon produce videos and other media to expand on this educational outreach work. HarborLAB also produces fact sheets, brochures, and other educational materials. We welcome students and volunteers to write for these blogs and materials, and to produce other creative works. Please email to learn more, suggest subjects, or electronically receive literature.

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